Tennis’ indoor season begins in the week following the US Open, and the ATP 250 series tournament in Metz is a popular stop for players who thrive on fast surfaces.
One of four men’s events to be staged in France, the Moselle Open also boats one of the most picturesque settings of any major competition.
Although Metz staged a tournament in alternate years throughout the 1980s, it went on hiatus from 1989 until 2002, and didn’t become a regular fixture on the ATP calendar until the following year.
Held at the Arènes stadium from 2003 - 2010, the tournament began to attract some of the biggest stars in tennis, and became especially sought-after by French players hoping to taste success on home soil.
The Moselle Open moved to a new stadium in 2011, the Parc des Expositions. New facilities and courts were constructed for the relocation, making the tournament one of the most well-attended annual sporting events in the “Green City”.
Since becoming a mainstay on the ATP tour in 2003, the Moselle Open has been dominated by home-grown players. Arnaud Clément won the inaugural tournament, and Jérôme Haehnel won the only title of his career in Metz in 2004. Gaël Monfils and Gilles Simon lifted the trophy in 2009 and 2010 respectively; in 2012, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga became the first ever multiple champion at the Moselle Open when he successfully defended his title form the previous year.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray both played in Metz in the early stages of their careers. Djokovic won his second career title there in 2006, while Murray was a finalist in 2007, losing to Tommy Robredo of Spain. Since 2003, the only other non-French winners of the Moselle Open are Ivan Ljubicic in 2005 and Dmitry Tursunov in 2008.
Tsonga def. Ljubicic, 2011 final:
Jo-Wilfred Tsonga was aiming to become the third Frenchman in a row to win the Moselle Open, but in the 2011 final he faced the man who had hoisted the trophy six years earlier: Ivan Ljubicic. The Croat had looked impressive ahead of the showpiece match, using his big serve to outmanoeuvre less powerful opponents.
But it was Tsonga who came charging out of the blocks, firing seven aces in the opening set and breaking his opponent's serve in the first and seventh games. Retrieving well and hitting a series of jaw-dropping winners on his forehand, the man from Le Mans took the first set 6-3.
To the delight of the home fans, Tsonga’s rich vein of form continued at the beginning of the second set. He broke Ljubicic again to build a 4-1 lead, and even had a point for 5-1. In spite of the scoreline, however, the Croat refused to buckle, and better returns and groundstrokes helped him claw his way back to even terms. In the second set tie-break, Ljubicic rallied from 2-4 down and took his first set point with a forehand into the open court to leave Tsonga - and the crowd - with a lot to think about.
The momentum shifted once more at the beginning of the third set. Perhaps drained by the effort of winning the second, Ljubicic’s shots lost some of their potency, and he was broken in the third game. The 32-year-old managed to keep the rallies entertaining for the remainder of the match, but a reinvigorated Tsonga was covering the court beautifully. He broke again at 5-3 to end the two hour, 36 minute contest and win his first tournament in almost two years.
Video: Tsonga v Ljubicic, 2011
- On his way to the title in 2004, Jérôme Haehnel beat compatriot Paul-Henri Mathieu in a semi final that consisted of three tie-break sets and lasted over three hours.
- At the 2006 Moselle Open, the top two seeds from Spain, David Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero, both lost their first round matches to Frenchmen.
- A French team won the doubles title in Metz every year from 2003 - 2008.
- Britain’s Colin Fleming and Ken Skupski won their first ATP doubles title together at the Moselle Open in 2009.
- Since 2009, the top four seeds in Metz have been awarded a bye into the second round.